Atkins Diet Fail

Featured Article, Weight Loss
on October 24, 2012

Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I was put on the Atkins diet six months ago, and I am not losing weight like I should be, according to my dietitian. One month I lost 3 pounds, and last month only 1 pound. I don’t eat large meals—usually small amounts of meat and a salad of some kind. What can I do to improve my weight loss on this diet?—Deana

DEAR DEANA: Hmmm. It’s great that you’re working with a dietitian, although I have to say I’m a bit surprised that she recommended the Atkins diet for you. Many mainstream health experts aren’t too hot on the high-protein, low-carb plan, because it severely restricts whole grains and allows high amounts of saturated fats that help drive up LDL (bad) cholesterol. If you haven’t already, consult your physician—both on the wisdom of sticking to the Atkins diet, and on why you aren’t losing weight on it. The fact is that the Atkins diet has a pretty good reputation as a lose-weight-quick plan, but not so much as a long-term weight loss solution. So it’s even more perplexing that you aren’t losing more weight following the plan.

RELATED: Atkins Diet 101

Your physician might be able to help. There are several factors that could affect your ability to drop pounds on this (or any other) diet. Underlying conditions (like thyroid problems or polycystic ovary syndrome) and side effects of prescription drugs (corticosteroids, anti-depressants) could make weight loss difficult for you.  I would need to know more about your individual situation to pinpoint the cause. In general, though, I suggest your keeping a food journal if you aren’t already (your dietitian should have you doing this)—that might reveal that you are taking in more calories than you think you are.

It is possible, too, that the progress you’re making isn’t showing on the scale. Are your clothes fitting differently? Do you have more energy? You could be losing fat and changing your body composition without your knowing it. If you’re curious, find out if your doctor or dietitian can measure your body fat. There are a number of methods for doing this—I would suggest, though, avoiding body fat scales, which tend to be unreliable. Some health clubs and healthcare professionals have the newfangled InBody machine, which is extremely reliable, but good old-fashioned calipers work OK too. The gold-standard, though, is hydrostatic weighing—basically an underwater scale. A new, portable hydrostatic body composition scale called the Fitness Wave is making it easier for people like you and me to get a really clear picture of what’s going on inside.

The other suggestion is to add exercise to your regimen. Frankly, I don’t love any weight loss plan that doesn’t include exercise—being active has SO many health benefits, even if you don’t lose an ounce while doing it. Not to mention the mood lift and confidence boost you get with every workout—that can go a long way when you’re trying to stick to a weight loss plan. Even simple walking should help fire up your metabolism and help you lose weight at a faster rate. Better yet, add resistance training to your regimen to increase your muscle mass (muscle burns more calories than fat). We have a whole library of great strength-training workout videos on our website.

Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Ask her your question here.